More Discussions for this daf
1. Mitzvos as results of acts of the Avos 2. Erasing the Megilas Sotah
DAF DISCUSSIONS - SOTAH 17

Neil Blavin asked:

In Lech Lecha Avraham tells the king of sdom that he will not take a shoestrap or a string. In Sotah (and Chulin) Rava says that because of that we have the mitzvah of techeiles and the retzutzos shel rosh. The medrash rabba on this verse in Lech Lecha mentions many different opinions as to what mitzvot are derived from Avraham's refusal. Yet Rashi in Noach comments that when Shem covered Noach with the blanket, he merited tzitzit.

Is this to say that without this action of Avraham/Shem we would not have these mitzvot? Are all mitzvot a direct result of the actions of the Avos? I have always thought that the 613 were a master plan for the worlds Tikkun as well as our own plan for deviekus and earning olam haba.

I know that this is out of sequence for the daf, but Please help!!!

Thanks, Neil Blavin

Rav Joseph Pearlman replies:

The underlying Hashkafic issue is the old chestnut of freewill versus predetermination. One has to accept that time itself is the fourth dimension, a creation of Hash-m. In reality, it is the first dimension, for without it none of the other dimensions could exist. That is the reason why the Torah commences with the word "Bereishis," which was "created by Elokim" (as per the Gemara in Megilah 9a).

As Hash-m is l'Ma'aleh Min ha'Zman, beyond the dimension of time, the whole basis of the question falls to the ground. But in that case, how do we have any choice, if it has all been predetermined? This question is dealt with by the Rambam and Ra'avad in Hilchos Teshuvah 5:5. The Rambam asks the question of this apparent contradiction, and then writes, "Know that the answer to this question is longer than the expanse of the earth and wider than the sea, and many fundamental truths and lofty principles are dependent on it...." It is very worthwhile to read the Rambam and Ra'avad; attached is a copy of the text.

The modern video machine is a brilliant example of the Ra'avad's exposition. The viewer knows the result and what is going to happen in every respect. Yet the footballer playing the game that is being reviewed on the video screen had a completely free choice of where he was going to place the ball.

It is in that light that we must view the Mitzvos of the Torah. Hash-m made it the blueprint for an ideal world. He in His infinite wisdom could presumably have cobbled together many different ideal systems of Mitzvah combinations. However, He chose the Taryag knowing that these would be the most appropriate for our particular world.

Thus, the Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim says that Korbanos were chosen as a counterblast to the pagan urge to sacrifice to idolatry, Molech , Ba'al, etc. He puts the Mitzvah of Pe'os ha'Rosh in Hilchos Avodah Zarah, etc. Similarly, the Mishkan had a potentially different purpose prior to the sin of the Egel ha'Zahav than that subsequent to it.

Yamim Tovim were also different initially. In Mishpatim, they are all described by their agricultural names, as they were to be merely a thanksgiving sort of harvest festival, but by Ki Sisa, after the Egel, they became national holidays with an atonement function, and consequently their names were changed. (See Meshech Chochmah.)

Many Mitzvos are "Zecher li'Yetzi'as Mitzrayim." The Kedushah of Eretz Yisrael, we are taught, was dependent on how far Avraham Avinu reached in his travels. The Avos instituted the three Tefilos, Ma'aseros, etc., as per Rambam in Hilchos Melachim 9:1.

This, then, leads to the question of things like Milah, Gid ha'Nasheh, etc., which were commanded at Sinai but written in their historical context (before Sinai). This is a big Sugya -- see Chulin 101b: "[The Mitzvah] was stated at Sinai, but it was written in its place...." See the Torah Shelemah to Bereishis 32:31, #160 (see attached copy, and notice the length at which this topic is discussed).

But this, however interesting, is subsidiary to the main underlying point that is bothering the questioner, which, as I have said, really has its roots in the unanswerable conundrum which is quite beyond our intelligence, since we are confined within the four dimensions, whereas Hash-m is not. He, therefore, provided us with a Torah and a set of rules appropriate to our needs taking all factors into account including, obviously, the behaviour of the ancients.

I hope that the foregoing is of help.

Kol Tuv,

Joseph Pearlman